Newcastle United 1-0 QPR

By Owen PhillipsBBC Sport
Leon Best's curling strike puts Newcastle ahead
Leon Best curls in the winner after cutting inside Luke Young

Leon Best's brilliant first-half strike took Newcastle up to sixth in the Premier League table and spoiled Mark Hughes's first game as QPR manager.

Rangers twice hit the woodwork in the first half, through a fierce Shaun Wright-Phillips strike and Jay Bothroyd's fabulous, curling effort.

But Newcastle recovered from a shaky start and Best stroked home a cool winner after some fine footwork.

Bothroyd wasted two good chances after the interval but the Magpies held on.

The result was more than a little harsh on QPR, who gave a competitive performance befitting their new boss.

Best's immaculate winner was the only shot on goal the hosts managed but the statistics betray their contribution to a frenetic and entertaining match.

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QPR slipped into the relegation zone following Blackburn's win over Fulham on Saturday, but would have climbed back out with a point.

And a blistering beginning augured well for their chances of doing just that.

Wright-Phillips skimmed the top of the bar with a fierce 18-yard strike as Newcastle struggled to gain or retain possession in the opening 10 minutes.

Heidar Helguson had a decent strike saved within the first 60 seconds and the Londoners were first to every ball, keeping the Magpies pegged back in their own half.

Akos Buzsaky also caused home goalkeeper Tim Krul a nervy moment with a swerving strike.

And just after the half-hour mark, Bothroyd grazed the far post with a delicious, curling effort from the edge of the box after a lovely piece of skill on the left.

But in between the two efforts that hit the bar and post, Newcastle got on top, despite the setback of Yohan Cabaye having to come off with an ankle injury after a late lunge from Shaun Derry.

In fact, Cabaye's exit probably inadvertently helped the hosts.

In the absence of top scorer Demba Ba and influential midfielder Cheick Tiote - both away at the Africa Cup of Nations - Newcastle's main threat came via the right foot of Ryan Taylor and the class and guile of Cabaye's replacement Hatem Ben Arfa.

Taylor's pinpoint set-piece delivery set up headed chances for Fabricio Coloccini and Jonas Gutierrez, while Taylor also forced a brilliant sprawling save from Paddy Kenny with a measured 25-yard strike.

The home side were rewarded for their growing domination eight minutes before the break when the bustling Danny Guthrie burst forward from midfield and did well to dig the ball out from under his feet and find Best.

Best showed wonderful composure, great awareness and quick feet to skip inside Luke Young and shoot low into the far corner to put the hosts ahead.

Rangers responded and Jamie Mackie volleyed well over after his initial shot was blocked and they started the second half every bit as well as they began the first.

Bothroyd twice had good chances to level, but he blazed his first effort wildly over the bar following a clever nod down from Helguson and saw attempt number two comfortably saved by Kenny at his near post.

Hughes pleased with QPR attitude

As the visitors began to get stretched chasing an equaliser, Newcastle looked increasingly likely to add to their lead.

Davide Santon saw a shot deflected wide after an excellent run and the impressive Gutierrez had a long-range attempt at a half-guarded net cleared after Kenny raced from his goal.

Ben Arfa almost teed up a second goal for the dangerous Best but the striker was in two minds and his hesitant effort was blocked by Kenny.

Rangers failed to create a decent opening in the closing stages and Newcastle stayed solid and organised and were able to close out their third win in four league games - and a fourth out of five in all competitions.

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